Written by Tori Smith, Public Relations and Social Media Assistant
It’s official! Rising to the Surface, an exhibition by Debbie Ma, debuted on September 28. Museum visitors can follow the patterned staircases and walk their way to Debbie’s gallery, full of abstract paintings.
Visitors who come to view the exhibition may not normally realize how much work actually goes into getting an exhibition up and running. The DOMA Insider decided to talk to six student assistants and interns who have been involved in the process of getting Rising to the Surface, well, rising to the surface!
Milo Hardison, a junior english literature major at Ball State University, is a curatorial intern and an education research assistant. They have been at the museum for three years and previously worked as a guard.
Milo was involved in helping unpack the artworks DOMA received from Debbie Ma. They helped to open the crates and unpack the works of art. They also took photos and notes about how the artworks were in the packages. Milo was involved in researching books about artists that inspired Debbie Ma’s work.
Milo hopes to be a librarian one day, and learning how to take care of things is something they’ve gained from working at the museum.
Milo’s favorite part of working on this exhibition has been seeing the process of it.
They had the opportunity to meet the artists while watching the filming of a documentary with Debbie Ma being interviewed in it.
“That was a little random, because they had me sit in to check lighting and camera placement,” said Milo. “Seeing the process was really cool and something I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to outside of setting up the exhibition.”
Kennedy, a junior art history major at Ball State, is a collections intern. She has been at the museum for over a year.
She was involved in the physical labor of the exhibition, like unloading the crates, moving all the paintings to where they’re supposed to go, applying two-sided tape to the backs of the wall labels, and helping with staircase decals.
Unboxing the paintings was Kennedy’s favorite part of the process, as it felt like a mystery to her as to what the next artwork was that they were going to find under the layers.
She was there to watch Debbie’s in-person camera interview and had fun watching it.
“After learning why she [Debbie Ma] does what she does, I’ve gained so much appreciation for it,” said Kennedy. “It was a whole new perspective. She’s just such a sweet human.”
Kennedy dreams to one day open her own gallery with international artists.
Kate Kimmell is a 2023 Ball State graduate who earned her BFA in Studio Art, specifically in printmaking. She is an assistant preparator. She has been at the museum for over a year.
Kate helped plan the schedule for installation, helped receive and unpack the crates, and do any cleaning that needed to be done on the backs of the paintings, which had been stored in a barn. They had cobwebs on them. She also did all the lighting, assisted with condition reporting, and figured out different placements for the labels.
Kate got to experience working on a larger team during this exhibition instead of just one individual. This time, she got to work with Debbie, her husband, and every staff member involved in the exhibition.
“My favorite part was getting to meet Debbie,” said Kate. “It’s something you don’t get to experience…it’s not typical to have artists come in and help and give their two cents. It was cool to be with someone who made it (the art) and gain her trust.”
Olivia Miller, a senior art education major at Ball State, is an education assistant. This is her second semester at the museum.
Olivia created worksheets and activities for the education room. Olivia hopes to be a teacher one day, so she uses the opportunity to create things and considers how it could fit into her future classroom.
She really enjoyed working with a contemporary artist.
“Without her, we wouldn’t be here,” said Olivia. “Creating that relationship with someone’s who’s alive has been super rewarding. It’s a more personal experience for the artist herself and everyone visiting.”
Olivia knows that it’s not always possible for individuals to come in and access the museum, so she prides herself on making materials that are fun and accessible for everyone.
“I always want to make stuff that is rewarding and enriching…everyone should be able to experience a museum.”
Blake Chapman, a graduate student in Ball State’s emerging media and design development program, is a media graduate assistant. This is his first semester at the museum.
Blake has been involved in helping to create the educational video that plays in the Education room and creating more things to place on the museum’s DigiBoard, which is an electronic sign.
Blake’s favorite project has been creating the educational video that in the education space within the exhibition. He’s learned through the process that everyone has different needs for their creative processes, he said.
“It becomes not just your own, and there’s slight beauty in that. That moment has been my most fulfilling moment,” he said.
Blake hopes that his future career is full of collaboration and project management, which is exactly what he’s experienced during his time working on the exhibition. He feels motivated and excited to learn new things and explore what the museum means as a community and educational resource.
“We have a great responsibility to fulfill the educational, artistic, and community engagement of this area,” he said. “I want to answer that call.”
Taylor Hamblin, a senior public relations major at Ball State, is a public relations intern. She previously worked as a guard for a year.
Taylor has been involved in creating graphics for the exhibition, whether that is working on social media projects or creating the postcard which informs people about Debbie Ma’s lecture.
Her favorite part of the process was meeting Debbie herself.
“During the first-time meeting Debbie, she thanked me for making something for her,” she said. “It’s just hilarious because she’s a graphic designer. It’s cool to see the artists that I promoted something for.”
Taylor learned through the process of this exhibition that it’s a team effort, and there’s a handful of moving parts to it. She thinks it’s cool to see the passion people have at a nonprofit and see all of their minds work together.
As always, thank you for reading the DOMA insider and make sure to visit the museum soon! DOMA is free and open to the public; we are open Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Check out our website at bsu.edu/doma.